Nervous Breakdowns in Namibia

I snapped my moorings ten hours ago after being caught behind yet another thick-thighed pack of Spandex-coated cyclists on Victoria Road.

Most normal people would agree that bicycles are for children. The government needs to wake up and pass legislation to this effect before there is a terrible accident.

I was deeply traumatised after spending what felt like hours behind a dozen pairs of pulsating purple buttocks while these overgrown adolescents made secret hand signals to one another that clearly meant things like “let’s ride six abreast” and “don’t let the bastard pass”.

I managed to bring down two of them with a speargun I keep under my seat for emergencies such as these.

This gave me enough of a gap to get through, but valuable time had been wasted. All the parking at Llandudno was gone because of this unnecessary delay.

I knew then that if I stayed in town much longer, it would only be a matter of time before I broke my rule never to use the speargun to inflict anything more serious than a flesh wound.

There was nothing left to do but pick up the passport and a bottle of tequila and make a high-speed run for the nearest border. Namibia seemed like a good choice. It’s about as far from bicycle country as you can get.

Approaching the border in the far Northern Cape, the vegetation quickly becomes sparse, brown and nondescript – much like the people. It’s almost as if the grass and flowers are too afraid to grow all the way up to Vioolsdrift.

I was carrying very little contraband and was confident of making it across the Orange River without the usual jostling and shouting that accompanies me at borders.

The dead-eyed official behind the desk was more concerned about me walking off with his pen than he was about searching my car. Then I was in, sweeping through the gears until I reached the Namibian speed limit of 250kph.

There is something about the light in this country that makes you want to write poetry. I tried steering with my knees and scribbling something on an old parking ticket but it made no sense at all when I read it later.

Anyway, I never really had time to enjoy the light since I was too busy swerving for tortoises. I missed a few, but I’ll get them on the way back.

I also discovered that a Hyundai vibrates violently at anything over 170kph, causing full beers to foam into your lap. Maybe it’s some kind of Korean cruise control.

So it was with pounding music and a soggy crotch that I found myself in the deep south pretending to be American by driving endlessly on the right-hand side of the road.

I was in the land god started making in anger before he got distracted by the Middle East. You can’t really blame him. It must have been a lot more fun making a Holy Land and then telling two tribes that they are the Chosen People, then sitting back and watching them slaughter each other for the next two thousand years.

It would have been nice, though, if he had hung around long enough in southern Namibia to put in the rivers after creating the beds.

I was pondering the demerits of having an attention-deficit god when, with no warning at all, he decided to punish me. It happened while I was racing a giant truck filled with hamburger on the hoof.

As I drew level, with my rev counter buried deep in the red, I felt something give in the gearbox. With no power, I began falling back. The driver, thinking he had won, also slowed down to let me pass.

With a blind rise coming up fast, I veered off into the veld and watched the truck disappear into a vast empty void.

Standig with my suitcase on the side of the road and the last shot of Jose Cuervo in my hand, I watched the sun go down. Suddenly the beautiful solitude wasn’t quite so beautiful. A jackal howled in the distance and a tumbleweed blew against my leg. A lizard gave me the lazy eye.

Extreme situations call for extreme measures. I took off all my clothes and lay down in the middle of the road. It was a stupid thing to do because I burnt my bum on the white stripe. There was nothing to throw stones at, so I tried to hit god but he was too high.

An old survivalist, I began setting about making a bivouac for the night. This involved standing my suitcase on end and crouching next to it. Now I would have to defend my exposed left flank against thirst-crazed hyenas with nothing more powerful than a tequila bottle.

And even if I survived the wild animals, a deranged goat farmer from Gobabis was bound to come along and cause a scene straight out of Deliverance. I would be found days later hog-tied behind a clump of khakibos with my trousers around my ankles covered in scorpions and begging for mercy.

I’ve run out of space so I’ll have to leave out the bit about Rassie’s bakkie, a hunting rifle that ended up wedged between my legs, a portion of lamb chops so rare that they bleated when I sank my teeth into them and a German diamond smuggler who followed me to a Keetmanshoop hotel much, much later that night.

18 March 2003

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